About my blog

Welcome to my trail running site. I enjoy being on the trail where I can take in nature and clear my mind. I prefer running in the mountains, but anywhere rural will do. I have completed four 100 mile trail races and many other ultramarathons. I'm a member of Team Red, White and Blue. "Enriching the lives of America's veterans."

Sunday, August 10, 2014

St. Sebastian River Preserve

Ah, sunny Florida in August. This is the life. Nothing like relaxin’ on the beach where your only worry is a blown out flip-flop and maybe a lost shaker of salt. Indian River County is on the East Coast about half way down the state where there is an abundance of lush vegetation, tropical birds, dolphins, manatees and sea turtles that bury their eggs on the pristine beaches. Sounds like a tropical paradise until you try to run in the sweltering heat. The humidity is off the scale and you will be soaking wet if you make it to the end of your run.

Sandhill Cranes wander the neighborhoods

Nevertheless, I got in a few quality runs in between visiting family and friends in the Sunshine State. The highlight was the St. Sebastian River Preserve where I ran about ten miles in the S.E. corner of the park. The wildlife preserve straddles I-95 between Sebastian and Fellsmere and has around 60 miles of hiking trails.
This tree frog was hiding behind the storm shutters
Florida Scrub
When I began my run, the morning air was thick with moisture and a blanket of fog hid the horizon. Florida scrub dominates the landscape here. Tall longleaf pines create the forest canopy while scrub palmetto, a short fan palm, makes up the understory. This disappearing habitat is important for many endangered and threatened species like the Red-cockaded woodpecker and the gopher tortoise.  

These large reptiles dig burrows that are also used by hundreds of other species like burrowing owls, raccoons and snakes. Wildfire suppression has hindered the survival of the tortoise because natural fires clear the underbrush and open the canopy so the plants that they eat can grow. We were lucky enough to see a tortoise while taking a drive along a canal here a few days ago.

While running the sandy path I came across several huge spider webs that stretched the width of the trail. Each time a quarter sized brown spider was waiting in the center, but I was too keen to fall for her sticky trap. The terrain was completely flat, but sand was tricky to run through at times. As I ran, I couldn't help but remember that this land was completely covered by the ocean at one time and will most likely be under water in the future. 
See what Florida would look like if all the ice melted: Click here

Animal tracks in the sand
Pretty soon the sun made its appearance and illuminated the fog rising from a swamp. Running alone at dawn can be a bit spooky and the scene reminded me of the Legend of Boggy Creek, a 70s film about a bigfoot-like creature that lurked around Fouke, AR. My pace picked up after this until I reached ankle deep water blocking the route. 

I decided I didn’t want to have soaking wet feet just yet, so I turned around to see If I could find a trail that wasn’t under water. I retraced my steps and found an equestrian trail, but this too eventually turned into a swampy mess. At this point I said, “screw it” and ran through it anyway until I reached a deep pool. I then turned back and ran along the dirt park road. This is where I came upon a meadow where a young buck and several does were enjoying a morning meal of tall green grass. 

Water plants were growing in the ditches on either side of the road and I ran past marshy fields where several great egrets were feeding. When I reached the end of the road at a place called Tree Frog Camp, I spooked a flock of juvenile turkeys. This was the end of the line so I headed back having enjoyed another fantastic running adventure. St. Sebastian River Preserve is a gem that also offers fishing, kayaking, horseback riding and a host of other activities including the Wild Sebastian 100 mile ultramarathon (“It’s flat, not easy!”). In November they will set up a 25 mile course where runners will have the opportunity to run 25, 50, 75 or 100 miles.

When I returned to my car I was a sopping mess so I toweled myself off and changed into my swimming trunks. Next stop; Margaritaville. 

See you on the trail. 

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